An unofficial case of official battery

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

Here's the scenario: Canada is playing Russia and Ivan Kutcherearsoff, scrambling from his offensive zone, lays the lumber on the referee and manhandles a linesman en route to his own zone.

A Vesuvius of vitriol would erupt in the Canadian media. Kutcherearsoff would be gone from the tournament.

But it wasn't a fictitious Russian who roughed up the officials, it was rising Canadian superstar Rick Nash. And instead of an uproar following the world hockey championship game, the aftermath was like that following a mob hit on a busy street at noon.

Nobody saw anything.

Having just experienced some revisionist history at a high school reunion last weekend where tales of athletic triumphs fast became legends, it is interesting to witness a revisionist present.

Nash says whatever transpired happened in the heat of the game. He doesn't recall hooking Russian ref Vyacheslav Bulanov on the hip with his stick blade. He doesn't remember, as he hooked Bulanov a second time more forcefully, feeling Slovak linesman Miroslav Halecky's hand on his back and whirling around to shove him.

We all know about mass hysteria. Saturday's Canada-Sweden game was a case of mass amnesia.

Somehow the late-game incident was nowhere to be noted in the official game report. International Ice Hockey Federation officials either didn't see it, didn't hear about it or thought it was something else -- maybe Nash was tapping the ref for calling a good game. Maybe he intended to embrace the linesman but missed.

The irony is rich. After decades of justified Canadian bleating about poor officiating, it was precisely that -- the absence of a game report notation -- that keeps Canada's leading scorer in action.

It also gives the rest of the nations involved, longtime critics of what they perceive to be special federation treatment toward Canada, some justification for their complaints.

Nash got a free pass, no doubt about it. Had he done the same thing to one, let alone two officials during NHL play, he'd be taking a seat for five games or more and forking over a hefty fine. So, how come? Well, you won't have much trouble connecting the dots. They lead from Nash to the box office.

Canada is always a big seller at these hockey hoedowns and the Columbus Blue Jackets magician is helping make the guys with a maple leaf on their chest and heroics in their hearts a turnstile-twirler without parallel.

Nash's outburst seemed out of character. But he did it, and one can only come up with a single comparable incident in which the player got away with it. In the same situation while heading to his own zone, Gordie Howe once flattened linesman Ron Asselstine with a wave of his powerful arm and beat the rap.

The IIHF clearly was hoping the whole thing would go away, until the Swedes presented footage of the incident, which had been caught by an isolation camera used by a Swedish television station.

Here's where it gets fascinating.

It was the officials' fault, which is like saying the pedestrians should not have been on the sidewalk when the train derailed and mowed them down.

Referee supervisor Bob Nadin, whose name hasn't come up in some time, claimed the officials "were partially holding up his progress up the ice. That's how both officials look at it," the Canadian said.

So far, nobody has heard from the on-ice officials. If you know the IIHF way of doing business, the two will keep their mouths shut rather than endanger the possibility of future assignments.

Revisionist history is easy. It's harder to get a fix on a revisionist present.


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